People talk about solar panels and batteries a lot (at least the people I talk to). The reasons are that solar panels are conspicuous on rooftops — and batteries are what keep the lights on during increasingly frequent blackouts. But the real brains of a solar and battery storage system is the inverter.
With increased global production, solar panels and battery cells have become commodities — differentiated mainly by price and efficiency. For a variety of reasons, inverters are still quite specialized. Initially, inverters simply converted DC current to household AC current. Modern inverters also provide a variety of safety features (rapid shutdown and arc fault protection), monitoring, and grid support services. The next generation of inverters extends beyond solar, providing backup power, EV charging and home energy management capabilities.
Through a combination of great technology, disciplined execution and industry vision, SolarEdge has become the leading inverter company. Based on my experience in the field (and roof), they have the best combination of efficiency, safety, installation ease and overall value. Most importantly, SolarEdge continues to push the technology envelope as they expand into backup power and distributed grid services.
Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is Peter Mathews, General Manager of North America for SolarEdge. He has done a terrific job growing SolarEdge to over a 60% market share in the U.S. Please listen to this week’s Energy Show as Peter shares insights around SolarEdge’s business, how SolarEdge is addressing the power crisis in California, their new commercial products, and the company’s ongoing product vision for a distributed grid.
In the early days of solar and storage, virtually every system used lead acid batteries to store daytime energy and use this energy at night. Although these systems functioned well, they required a lot of maintenance (you can tell old-time battery installers from the acid burns in their jeans), were quite heavy, had complicated control systems and had limited lifetimes. Net metering alleviated the need for battery storage. But now with changes in net metering, Time of Use (TOU) rates and poor grid reliability, batteries are experiencing a resurgence.
Part of the reason for this battery comeback is that new lithium ion battery storage systems overcome almost all the disadvantages of lead acid systems (they are still somewhat expensive). These systems are designed to be installed next to your solar inverter, have integrated battery management and control systems, and require no maintenance over their guaranteed 10 year lifespans.
Utilities are moving their peak electric rates from mid day to the late afternoon and evening when the sun doesn’t shine. With battery storage, customers can time-shift their energy use — running their homes and businesses from stored energy in their battery, and replenishing that battery the next day when the sun is shining. Many of these battery systems can also provide backup power during a grid outage — or one of the “Planned Power Outages” that utilities implement to prevent power line-caused fires.
The best news is that many states, including California, provide rebates to reduce the costs of battery storage systems. Please tune in to this week’s Energy Show as Josh Weiner from Sepi Solar joins us to explain the codes and standards that apply to the installation of energy storage systems.
The most common questions that prospective solar customers ask is “Which solar panels should I buy?” That’s a tough question to answer, and arguably maybe not the most important question (more about that later).
I initially got into the solar business for altruistic reasons — save the planet and all that. The planet still needs saving, perhaps more than ever. But I quickly realized that the vast majority of customers were interested in saving money first (the planet could wait). So I am biased towards finding the most cost-effective system for customers. To that end, people want an inexpensive system that is reliable, high efficiency (especially if they have limited roof space), and looks good on their roof.
When it comes to the solar panels themselves (also called solar modules), all solar panels generate the same amount of electricity on a per watt basis. A 300 watt panel from Manufacturer A will generate the same amount of energy as a 300 watt panel from Manufacturer B. 24 panels with a 275 watt output will generate the same amount of energy as 22 panels with a 300 watt output (6,600 watts). Your appliances can’t tell the difference if they are using electrons from a super high efficiency panel or from a less expensive system. Nevertheless, there are clear cut differences among solar panels in terms of efficiency, aesthetics, cost and availability. On the other hand, some of the sales pitch distinctions are subjective, such as brand, quality, durability, and long term energy output.
To learn more about critical decision factors in purchasing solar panels for your home or business, listen to this week’s Energy Show. For those of you who have read to the end of this summary, the most important question to ask is: “which contractor will install the best solar power system for my home or business?”
Attention U.S. Department of Commerce: your well-intentioned efforts to help the U.S. solar panel manufacturing industry are not working.
Even with 30%+ tariffs on imported solar panels and cells, the remaining U.S. manufacturers are struggling to stay competitive. The good news, as one would expect, is that there is strong demand for Made in the U.S.A. solar panels – both from ordinary consumers as well as government purchases. However, structural issues with the supply chain for solar components puts the remaining U.S. manufacturers at a substantial disadvantage. (more…)
There are there are three market segment for solar in the U.S.: residential, utility and commercial. Based on some rough math, in 2018 we expect to install 5 to 7 million solar panels on homes in the U.S. In areas with high residential electric rates, paybacks are usually in the range of 4-8 years. But the utility solar segment is much larger: about 20 million solar panels will be installed by utilities in 2018. Utilities realize that it is cheaper to generate power with solar compared to coal or nuclear generation. Moreover, the combination of solar and batteries is projected to be even cheaper than natural gas in a few years. (more…)
This week’s Energy Show is for solar power customers, contractors and inverter manufacturers who appreciate the need for reliable solar power systems. Surprising as it may seem, most solar monitoring systems are simply not up to the reliability standards of the panels and inverters they support. (more…)
Barry Cinnamon has been blogging about the Solar Industry since 2007.
Barry hosts The Energy Show, a weekly 30 minute talk show that runs every Saturday at 1:30 PM on KDOW Radio AM in San Jose California.
Every week Barry provides practical money-saving tips on ways to reduce your home and business energy consumption.
Barry Cinnamon heads up Cinnamon Solar (a San Jose residential and commercial solar and energy storage contractor) and Spice Solar (suppliers of built-in solar racking technology). After 10,000+ installations at Akeena Solar and Westinghouse Solar, he’s developed a pretty good perspective on the real-world economics of rooftop solar — as well as the best products and services for homeowners, manufacturers and installers. His rooftop tinkering led to the development of integrated racking (released in 2007), AC solar modules (released in 2009), and Spice Solar (the fastest way to install rooftop solar modules).
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